In Your Community Q&A
How long have you been city manager in Frankenmuth?
I’ve been city manager here for 31 years. My first day on the job was October 1, 1979, and that was exactly 20 years after the Village of Frankenmuth became the City of Frankenmuth. My 30-year anniversary coincided with the city’s 50-year anniversary which we celebrated last year along with many of our friends and neighbors throughout Saginaw County and surrounding communities. My tenure as city manager in Frankenmuth has been very rewarding. Moving here from Pueblo, Colorado with my wife, Ann, in 1979 was one of the best decisions of my life.
Tell me a little about the history of Frankenmuth.
The Community was settled in 1845 by Lutheran missionaries from the Franken (Franconian) area in Germany (an area in the northern part of modern day Bavaria). The German word “Muth” means courage, so the city name Frankenmuth means “courage of the Franconians”. The Frankenmuth area remained a magnet for other Germans from the same region who came to this area and established the nearby communities of Frankentrost, Frankentlust, and Frankenhilf (now Richville). The German migration to these four colonies was initiated as a mission to spread Christianity to the Chippewa tribe.
Frankenmuth is a city of about 4,800 residents and is located in the southeast quadrant of Frankenmuth Township. It became a village in 1904 and a city on October 1, 1959. It is about 3 square miles in area and is wholly surrounded by Frankenmuth Township with whom we have enjoyed a great relationship over the years. We have cost sharing agreements for police protection, fire fighting service and code enforcement, and we have an agreement whereby we share space in the same municipal building. The township offices are upstairs right above my office. Also, we collaborated years ago to create an urban growth boundary around the city within the township for land use planning purposes. This allows interested property owners to follow an established process to annex and develop their property as part of the city. And, it enables the township to pursue its policy of farmland preservation and to protect its valuable rural landscape.
Frankenmuth is known for its festivals and festive Christmas atmosphere. Tell me about tourism in Frankenmuth.
Well, as you said, we are a very popular tourist attraction in the state. In fact, each year we are visited by 2 to 3 million tourists from around the area, the state, the nation and the world. Frankenmuth is one of the top tourist attractions in Michigan.
Of course, anyone who comes here has to enjoy — at least once — the marvelous chicken dinners served by our two large restaurants: Zehnder’s and Bavarian Inn. Hundreds of thousands of tourists share a meal here every year and enjoy the shopping inside. But, as you can see, there are plenty of wonderful shops in Frankenmuth where you can browse and shop and just enjoy the day. There are also many other great places to eat and share an adult beverage with your friends. One of our other premier attractions is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. Wally Bronner, one of the icons of this city, died in 2008, but his name and reputation lives on, and the theme of keeping “Christ” in Christmas continues as a very high priority for the entire Bronner Family.
Christmas is certainly one of the top draws in this city. But we also offer many other festivals throughout the year. The list is long but some of the tourist favorites are: Snow Fest, World Expo of Beer, Dog Bowl, Regional Hot Air Balloon Championships, Bavarian Festival, Summer Music Festival, Auto Fest, Snow Fest and Oktoberfest. There are lots of things to do in Frankenmuth!
If you’ve never spent time in Frankenmuth, there is no better time than now to visit. But if you can’t make it this Christmas, you are welcome anytime of the year.
What about Frankenmuth as a community?
Interestingly, the work and family ethic that prevailed when Frankenmuth was a small, German migrant community is still very strong today. We are a conservative, hard-working city that cares for its families, its community and its neighbors. That has not changed in all the years. We have strong Christian values that have similarly remained part of the fabric of this community since its inception when it was a mission post to the Chippewa Indians.
We are proud of our community. But what we are especially proud of our schools. The Frankenmuth school system is one of the top school systems in the state. Many families choose to live in Frankenmuth to take advantage of our outstanding school system. Frankenmuth is also blessed with some other strong businesses including Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance, Star of the West Milling Company, Memtron Technologies and Air Advantage.
Anything else you’d like to say before we conclude our discussion?
Thank you for this chance to talk with you about Frankenmuth. We are a family-friendly community of hospitality. Please let your friends, neighbors and customers know that they are always welcome to the community of Frankenmuth. We welcome you to come for a visit, to come and live here and to come and establish a business here.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
Ludington, Michigan is a city of more than 8,300 people located along the shore of Lake Michigan in the northwest corner of the state’s lower peninsula. Consumers Energy provides electricity to the city. We appreciate Mayor John Henderson taking a few minutes to answer some questions about Ludington.
What attracted you to this area and influenced your decision to move here?
My wife Penny and I have lived here most of our lives. We have found Ludington to be a great place to raise our family; it’s a safe and wonderful place to live, work and play! Having Lake Michigan to the west and the magnificent state park to the north only adds to the beauty of living in Ludington!
What are the major challenges facing Ludington in the next 12 months?
As most communities with reduced tax revenues and a declining tax base, trying to maintain city services without raising taxes will be the biggest challenges facing the city itself.
The other equally challenging concept facing Ludington is continuing to develop an environment where businesses will continue to grow and be successful, but also an environment where businesses outside of Ludington will look at what we have to offer as a community and expand or relocate to Ludington.
What are the three keys to keeping and attracting new businesses to Ludington?
One way is to welcome them and work with them as a partner to create a united environment where we are striving for success for all. Secondly, continue to look for ways to help make them successful through improvement grants, tax incentives and working with them on city issues. Third, show them that Ludington is forward thinking and moving forward as an exciting place to not only visit, but also live and work as well.
What is the City doing to encourage energy conservation and efficiency?
We are continuing to look for ways to reduce our energy demands, but have already taken steps to become more energy-efficient. Over the last year we have installed automatic light switches in areas such as the Ludington Fire Department and City Hall; this helps us reduce our electricity usage in areas where lights have been left on when not being used. We also have taken additional steps and installed new energy-efficient lighting in buildings such as the Ludington Fire Department. Recently, we have talked about potentially installing new, energy-efficient streetlights throughout Downtown Ludington. We will continue to find more ways to become more efficient.
We have also incorporated energy efficiency into our community events as well. Last year the City of Ludington, with help from local businesses, built a New Year’s ball for our annual “Light Up the Lake” New Year’s Eve celebration — which is currently the largest New Year’s ball in Michigan and has over 6000 color-changing LEDs.
If someone had a day to visit Ludington, what would you tell them to do?
As I mentioned, Ludington is a beautiful place to visit, live, work and best of all PLAY! While Ludington is frequented mostly during the summer, we have many exciting things that happen year-round for people to do and see. My advice would be to walk through our wonderful downtown to enjoy some of the unique shops and restaurants. Spend the day at the beach, enjoying the fresh water of Lake Michigan. You can bring your skateboard and try our skate park at the beach or sit and enjoy the sunset from our sandy shores or take a walk out to the lighthouse on the break wall. We have million dollar sculpture park in Waterfront Park, which is nestled between two beautiful marinas and is the perfect place to watch the historic S.S. Badger dock at its home port here in Ludington. If you are looking for some excitement, come to one of our many events like our Freedom Festival Fourth of July celebration, Gus Macker basketball tournament, one of our Friday Night Live street parties or come back in the winter and enjoy our annual New Year’s Eve celebration and ball drop! As you can see, Ludington is an exciting place and there is always something to see and do!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
Cadillac, Michigan is a city of 10,000 people located in the northern portion of Michigan’s lower peninsula, about 100 miles north of Grand Rapids. Consumers Energy provides electricity to the city. Our thanks to Marcus Peccia for taking a few minutes to answer some questions about his community and his role as city manager.
The opportunity for professional growth (moving from assistant city manager to manager), and personal quality of life opportunities for my young family were the primary reasons that influenced my decision to move to Cadillac. The natural amenities, and distance from our family and friends (less than a 5-hour drive) were also important factors.
What are the major challenges facing Cadillac in the next 12 months?
Continuing to find resources to fund capital projects to remain sustainable in our economy, and developing new excitement and interest in our community to retain and attract business, tourists, and new residents.
What are the three keys to keeping and attracting new businesses to Cadillac?
For Cadillac, key components of retaining and attracting business include providing excellent public service affordably, providing tax incentives and supporting industry, and communicating; ensuring that businesses and the City alike have channels of communicating open to one another.
What is the City doing to encourage energy conservation and efficiency?
For the first time, the City is exploring a grant opportunity with the NWMCOG for developing an energy-efficient buildings program. The City Council will also be considering adding some form of “green statement” into their mission/vision statements.
If someone had a day to visit Cadillac, what would you tell them to do?
I would tell them to start off by having breakfast at one of our downtown eateries, possibly the Blue Heron or Shay Station. I would then suggest that they go for a walk down Mitchell (our “main” street), to see what some of the City’s unique shops have to offer. I would then mention that they should peel off of our main street, and take a walk by our City Park, where they can see an original Shay Locomotive, and take in the sites of our lake and possibly a concert at the Pavilion. I would lastly advise that there is a wonderful European eatery, Hermann’s, where they might wish to dine later at for dinner, as well as a boutique hotel above where they may stay for another night, since for the following day, I would suggest that they experience one of our many trails, or possibly rent a boat to enjoy a day on the lake.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
Gladwin, Michigan is a city of more than 3,000 people located about 30 miles west of Saginaw Bay. Consumers Energy provides both gas and electricity to the city. Our thanks to Bob Moffit for taking a few minutes to answer some questions about his community and his role as city manager.
Communication with board, staff and community leaders is the key to being successful. If, as a public manager, we can effectively communicate to board members and employees, morale and teamwork improves and people begin to feel more like part of a team. All of this leads to more of a unified pull or push for community and economic development. Everyone involved has to support changes that involve making the community a better place to live, work or visit. Some of the tools we use for community development include: USDA programs, MSHDA training and programs, MEDC and the MEDC Community Assistance Team. We have also established a proactive business support program, which includes things from tax abatements to grant supported technical training.
What are three key things a community needs to maintain and attract business?
1. A nice downtown.
2. Infrastructure to include water, sewer, streets, sidewalks, cell phone and broadband coverage.
3. Recreational opportunities.
What work experience or education have you found most useful on your job as city manager?
Working, learning and networking with experienced persons, on such things as municipal budgets and economic and community development. That has been the most useful to me as the City Manager of Gladwin.
What have you done to boost energy efficiency in your operation?
Putting variable frequency drives where we can. After conducting an energy audit, we made our Waste Water Treatment Plant and Airport Terminal more energy efficient. We changed several windows, doors and one furnace. We have also recently converted a few of our streetlights to LED.
If someone only had a day to visit Gladwin, what would you tell them to do?
Tour the downtown for shopping, enjoy our four beautiful parks and waterfront in the area. Make sure to enjoy the local restaurants as well. For more information check us out at: www.gladwin.orgRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
St. Johns is a city of 7,485 people located about 20 miles north of Lansing. Consumers Energy provides both gas and electricity to the city. We are grateful Dennis took a few minutes to answer some questions about his role as city manager.
What are the major challenges facing St. Johns in the next 12 months?
The challenges of today are the same challenges we’ve been grappling with for several years now. We are affected by the national and state economic crisis. High unemployment rates and consequent instability in the housing market, including the continuing wave of foreclosures, affects the local economy. Our revenue stream has been diminished by reduced revenue sharing from the State and reduced property tax collection. We anticipate that in the next 12 months state revenue sharing will be cut again, and will be below 1995 levels. Tax revenues will also continue to decline until the Legislature addresses the tax structure.
We also are facing rising employee costs because of increased pension and health care costs. These increases directly reflects the economic uncertainty that we hear and see everyday.
What has changed the most in the last five years in how you manage St. Johns?
Management has had to be very creative in maintaining the same level of services for its residents in the face of a reduced operating budget and decreased staffing levels. We have to scrutinize every expense, every training dollar in order to get maximum bang for the public buck. We promote competition for public works projects and other large purchases through the bidding process. We cross-train our employees so we can continue to do more with less. We solicit the input of staff with respect to creating a leaner budget and a better, more efficient way of caring out our mission.
What has St. Johns done to boost energy efficiency in its operation?
We did an entire energy audit for all departments which provided us with a blueprint and laundry list for reducing energy costs. We applied for grants through the Department of Energy/American Recovery Re-investment Act to assist us in replacing obsolete equipment. At the wastewater treatment plant we recently did a major renovation which included a methane recapture system to heat and cool our plant facilities. We are currently studying the most recent technology as concerns public street lighting in anticipation of reducing/controlling electrical costs in this area.
What are some of our favorite things to do in St. Johns?
I enjoy being involved in community projects through the St. Johns Rotary Club and the Clinton County Chamber of Commerce. I like to go to our City Park to enjoy the park trails and the weekly musical performances at our outdoor Performance Shell. Occasionally I like to take my wife out to the nearby Emerald Golf course for a round of golf.
What is the secret to managing staff?
Delegate when it makes the most sense. Listen to staff and residents. Provide effective and constructive feedback. Allow an environment where mistakes are used as training/teaching tools. Coach to win.
What tips would you give a City Manager who is just starting out?
This is a “people’s business”. You must be able to relate to people and their concerns in order to succeed. Be a team builder. Don’t feel you need to control every decision. Get the right people on bus.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )